Intermittent Gluttony

How Prayer Strengthens Fasting

Have you hopped on the intermittent fasting (IF) bandwagon, embraced by such tech luminaries as Twitter founder Jack Dorsey?

If so… good! You’re not absolutely bonkers as some in the media would have it.

Fasting is an ancient practice with spiritual and health benefits. It leads to autophagy (“self-eating” of the junk in your cells) and exercises your willpower so that you can more self control in all areas of life. Beyond this, it is a form of self-denial that has redemptive value on the spiritual plane and power to heal one’s self and others around them.

I’ve practice IF for a several years, but struggled at times to end my fast gracefully. The best thing to do is eat a decently-sized nutritious meal at the end of the day, go to bed, or occupy yourself with something, so that you’re not tempted to keep snacking.

But I find that I’m prone to overeating after a fast, especially when the fast is aided by caffeine, such that it might be more accurately characterized as intermittent gluttony. There are still health benefits to not eating at certain times, but you will not reap the full benefits by merely backloading the yielding to temptation.

I find this failure to be especially common when I do not pray as a complement to my fast.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his frustrated disciples that they are unable to cast out certain demons because “this kind cannot come out, except by prayer and fasting.” He has authority to say this, having himself fasted for 40 days in the desert in total reliance on God’s loving care.

Prayer is an inclining of one’s whole heart and mind to a supernatural intelligence, which has our best interests in mind. Christians make petitions to their heavenly Father to grant their “daily bread,” but the Greek word for “daily,” epi-ousios, translates more precisely to “super-essential.”

In responding to a test by the accuser to turn rocks into bread during his fast, Jesus replies that “man does not live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” In other words, all of the cravings to stuff ourselves with food, sex, television, and every other pleasurable distraction from our emptiness can be satisfied in another way, which is conversation with God’s living Word.

Fasting is a direct path to increase our cravings and thus our reliance on this Word, as well as our feeling of satisfaction from our daily bread — the moments of simple awareness of the gift of life, and the beautiful meaning with which it is imbued when we receive these gifts with gratitude.

Fasting without thankful prayer will not only be less pleasant, it will always make you more prone to the binge at the end of the day. Prayer without fasting is less powerful, but still still valuable. But fasting without prayer may be positively dangerous if it leads you to the near occasion of sin!

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